Surviving a breast cancer diagnosis – one small business owner’s story

How rehab consultant Lisa Griffiths rebuilt her business after fighting the Big C.

Like many self-employed Australians, Tasmanian Lisa Griffiths found financial stress came hot on the heels of a health issue. Here she shares the story of how she successfully battled breast cancer with the help of the McGrath Foundation, then revived her business. 

Learning the worst

“I found my lump in September 2014 and I saw the GP the following week,” Lisa says.

“Two days later I was having scans and biopsies, then there was a four-day wait for the results. It might sound odd but the diagnosis wasn’t a bolt from the blue. I was 53 and both my parents have had cancer. I just think, statistically, you’re more likely to get it than not.”

Putting business on hold

Self-employed since 2007, Lisa runs a rehabilitation consultancy which provides return-to-work injury management for workers’ compensation claims and case management and rehabilitation services for insurers and the Motor Accident Board.

“I had a lumpectomy, then there was a month’s wait before I started chemotherapy so I used that time to let clients know I’d be taking time off,” she says.

“I’m a one-woman band and I was carrying a big case load. A rehab consultant would normally manage around 30 cases but I had 50 and my clients had to reassign most of those.”

Lisa underwent four rounds of chemotherapy followed by weeks of intense radiation therapy; a gruelling schedule of treatment which put her out of action for several months.

“I found the chemo had frazzled my brain a bit – my memory and planning were a bit off,” she says. “I deal with a lot of head injuries in my line of work and I had to use some of the strategies I teach clients on myself – things like making notices to remind me to do things.

It was difficult for my family too – watching me go through everything and then dealing with the uncertainty about my long term prognosis. It was a tough time for all of us.”

A helping hand

Like so many other women, Lisa received invaluable support in the form of one of the McGrath Breast Care Nurses the McGrath Foundation provides.

“The local nurse, Tracey Beattie, phoned me a couple of days after diagnosis and before the surgery and she was there with me the whole way through, as a sympathetic ear and to provide advice,” Lisa says. “If I went to her with a question and she didn’t know the answer she’d follow it up. She was an absolute rock and the support the Foundation provided was just incredible.

“For me, it’s been a long road back but I think that’s something you have to accept and not get down about. You need to give yourself a break and remember your health comes first. Once you’re well, there will always be options.”

Back to work

With no sick leave to fall back on, Lisa returned to work early but found building her business back up again a slow process.

“Clients had started referring cases elsewhere while I was off. The bottom line is they have to have someone to do that work there and then,” she says. “And in my line of work you can’t get someone else in, because of confidentiality issues. It also took me two years before I could manage close to a normal case load.

“For me, it’s been a long road back but I think that’s something you have to accept and not get down about. You need to give yourself a break and remember your health comes first. Once you’re well, there will always be options.”

Insuring against ill health

If you run a small business, you should consider taking out sickness and accident insurance, income protection or trauma insurance. These products can provide different levels of cover if you’re unable to work due to injury or illness. A Steadfast broker can advise you on the appropriate cover and help the claims process  run smoothly should misfortune strike.



October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time when those who are or have been afflicted with breast cancer are celebrated and those who haven’t are encouraged to take the necessary precautions (one in eight Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they turn 85).

The Steadfast Foundation is proud to partner with the McGrath Foundation and sponsor the breast care nurse featured in this story, Tracie Beattie, whose physical, psychological and emotional support assists individuals dealing with breast cancer around Burnie, Tasmania.

You too can support the McGrath Foundation here



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